Top 22 Beneficial Insects That Are Great For Your Garden

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Gardens are ecosystems that host a variety of insects and wriggling creatures, some of which might make us squirm. However, not all insects and small animals are detrimental to plants. In fact, many of these seemingly unwelcome “pests” play a vital role in keeping your garden healthy and balanced.

By recognizing and supporting these beneficial organisms, gardeners can create a more sustainable and productive garden ecosystem. Not only do these creatures help control pest populations they also contribute to pollination and soil health, reducing the need for chemical interventions.

So welcome these allies to your garden, and watch your plants thrive naturally.

1. Ladybugs (Lady Beetles)

ladybugs good for the garden, beneficial insects
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Ladybugs are voracious predators of aphids, mites, and other soft-bodied pests. A single ladybug can consume hundreds of aphids in its lifetime, making them a valuable asset in the fight against these sap-sucking pests. Planting dill, fennel, and yarrow can attract ladybugs to your garden. You can also purchase ladybug larvae or adults online or at some garden centers.

2. Praying Mantises

praying mantis are beneficial insects
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These fascinating insects are ambush predators that lie in wait for unsuspecting prey, including caterpillars, grasshoppers, and flies. Their long, spiny bodies and impressive camouflage skills make them effective hunters. Keep areas of the garden a little wild with tall grasses and shrubs to provide mantises with hunting and hiding spots. Praying mantises are indiscriminate eaters and may also prey on beneficial insects like butterflies and bees. If you have a large praying mantis population, you may need to take steps to control their numbers.

3. Ground Beetles

ground beetle are beneficial insects
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Ground beetles are nocturnal insects that feed on slugs, snails, cutworms, and other pests that are harmful to garden plants. These predatory beetles come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they all share a common characteristic: long, powerful jaws that they use to devour other insects. They also burrow through soil, helping to aerate it and improve drainage for plant roots to access more oxygen and nutrients. Leave some leaf litter and stones on the ground for these beetles to take shelter under.

4. Bees

bees on flower
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Bees are some of the most beneficial insects you can have in your garden. They are essential pollinators for many fruits, vegetables, and flowers, facilitating the production of seeds and fruit. In fact, over 90% of flowering plants rely on animals, especially bees, for pollination. Plant a variety of flowering plants with different bloom times to provide nectar throughout the seasons. If you or someone in your household is allergic to bee stings, it is important to be aware of the risks involved in attracting bees to your garden. You may want to take steps to discourage bees from nesting too close to your home, such as by avoiding planting bee-friendly flowers directly next to your house.

5. Lacewings

lacewings are beneficial insects
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The delicate lacewings may not look like much, but their larvae are known as “aphid lions” for their appetite for aphids, as well as other pests like whiteflies and caterpillar eggs. They are also beneficial pollinators in their adult stage. Grow nectar and pollen-rich plants like goldenrod and yarrow to attract adult lacewings. You can also attract them by providing them with a habitat, such as a woodpile or loose bark mulch.

6. Spiders

spider on web
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While some gardeners may be afraid of spiders, these eight-legged creatures can be a gardener’s best friend. They weave webs that trap aphids, flies, mosquitoes, and other harmful insects. Spiders will consume a large number of insects, helping to keep pest populations in check. Allow some undisturbed corners and stack some wood or rocks to give spiders places to hide and weave their webs.

7. Dragonflies and Damselflies

dragonfly is a beneficial insect for your garden
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These flying insects are not only beautiful to watch but also eat mosquitoes, gnats, and other small flying pests. Dragonflies and damselflies lay their eggs in water, so having a pond, water feature, or even a large bowl of water in your garden is essential. The water should be still or slow-moving, and it should have some plants growing around the edges to provide hiding places for the nymphs (immature dragonflies and damselflies).

8. Bats

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These amazing flying mammals are the ultimate natural pest control, and they can provide other benefits to your garden as well. Bats are insectivores, meaning their diet consists almost entirely of insects. A single bat can consume hundreds of mosquitoes and other insects in a single night. Bat guano, or bat droppings, is a rich source of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, all of which are essential nutrients for plants. If you have bats roosting near your garden, you can benefit from their natural fertilizer. Installing a bat house in your garden can provide these nocturnal mammals with a safe place to roost.

9. Earthworms

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Earthworms are not typically thought of as pests, but they are essential for soil health. They aerate the soil and their castings are a fantastic natural fertilizer. Maintain a compost pile and minimize soil disturbance to create a welcoming environment for earthworms. Pesticides can be harmful to earthworms. Opt for organic pest control methods whenever possible.

10. Hoverflies

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Hoverfly larvae are another natural predator of aphids, and the adults help with pollination. They are named for their ability to hover in the air like a helicopter, and are often mistaken for bees or wasps due to their similar appearance. Plant marigolds, zinnias, and other flowers that provide ample nectar for the adult hoverflies. A shallow dish or birdbath filled with clean water will attract hoverflies, especially during hot weather.

11. Nematodes

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Nematodes, unlike the other creatures we’ve discussed, aren’t insects but rather microscopic roundworms. But don’t let their size fool you. In the gardening world, there are two types of nematodes: beneficial nematodes and parasitic nematodes. Beneficial nematodes can help control a variety of soil-dwelling pests, including grubs and root weevils, without harming plants or earthworms. These microscopic worms can be purchased and introduced into the soil of your garden. Parasitic nematodes, on the other hand, can cause stunted growth, wilting, and even plant death in severe cases.

12. Frogs and Toads

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These amphibians feed on a wide array of pests including slugs, snails, and various insects. Frog and toad droppings decompose and add nutrients to the soil, acting as a natural fertilizer for your plants. A shallow water source and plenty of shade and shelter can encourage frogs and toads to take up residence in your garden. Frogs and toads can absorb harmful chemicals through their skin, so it’s best to avoid handling them.

13. Soldier Beetles

soldier beetles
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Soldier beetles, also known as leatherwings for their soft, leathery wing covers, are predators of caterpillars, eggs, aphids, and other insects that can damage plants. They are also pollinators for certain plants. Planting goldenrod, milkweed, and hydrangea can attract these beetles to your garden. Leaving some areas of your garden un-raked with leaf litter and mulch provides them with a safe haven. You can also add woodpiles or loose bark for additional shelter options.

14. Parasitic Wasps

parasitic wasps
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These wasps don’t sting humans, unlike their yellowjacket cousins. Instead, they are miniature assassins for pest insects. These tiny wasps lay their eggs inside or on the bodies of pests like caterpillars and aphids. When the eggs hatch, the larvae consume the host insect, naturally controlling pest populations. Grow a variety of flowering plants to provide nectar for adult wasps, and avoid using broad-spectrum pesticides that can harm them.

15. Dung Beetles

Dung beetles
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Despite their sometimes unpleasant name, dung beetles are incredibly beneficial in your garden. They can be beneficial in larger green spaces by breaking down and recycling animal feces, which can otherwise attract flies and breed disease. If you have a garden frequented by wildlife, maintaining a natural habitat can encourage dung beetles.

16. Garter Snakes

garter snake
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Garter snakes are harmless to humans and can help control populations of slugs, grubs, and other pests. Leave some areas of your garden a bit wild with dense plantings and rock piles where snakes can hide and hunt. While garter snakes are mostly harmless to humans, it’s important to be aware of venomous snake species in your area. Learn how to identify the differences between garter snakes and venomous snakes if you’re concerned. If you encounter a garter snake in your garden, the best approach is to leave it alone. It will likely be more scared of you than you are of it.

17. Assassin Bugs

assassin bug
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True to their name, assassin bugs are formidable predators of many insect pests. They use their sharp mouthparts to inject lethal venom, liquefying their prey’s insides before consuming them. Common targets include aphids, caterpillars, beetles, squash bugs, and even other true bugs (including some beneficial ones, unfortunately). Providing a diverse garden with ample vegetation will give assassin bugs plenty of opportunities to hunt and places to hide. Assassin bugs can inflict a painful bite if they feel threatened or mishandled. Their bite is not venomous to humans, but it can cause irritation, swelling, and discomfort.

18. Damsel Bugs

damsel bugs
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Damsel bugs feed on a variety of garden pests, including aphids, caterpillars, mites, and cabbage worms. Planting fennel, caraway, and alfalfa can help draw these insects to your garden. Damsel bugs themselves might not be the most prolific predators, but their presence can attract other beneficial insects like spiders that prey on them. This can create a cascading effect, encouraging a wider range of beneficial insects in your garden.

19. Tachinid Flies

tachinid fly
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These flies are parasitoids, which means they lay their eggs inside other insects, and their larvae essentially hitch a free ride while enjoying an all-you-can-eat buffet from the inside out. Adults are often seen visiting flowers for nectar. Grow plants with umbel-shaped flowers, like dill, parsley, and wild carrot, to provide nectar for the adult flies.

20. Predatory Mites

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These minuscule arthropods are natural enemies of many plant-feeding mites and insects. They specifically target pest mites like spider mites, thrips, and whiteflies, feeding on all their life stages – eggs, nymphs, and adults. Predatory mites are commercially available for purchase at garden centers or online retailers. These mites come in a carrier material like vermiculite or bran flakes and are typically released directly onto infested plants.

21. Fireflies (Lightning Bugs)

lightning bug / firefly
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Firefly larvae are known to eat snails, slugs, and cutworms, all of which can be harmful to garden plants. Fireflies thrive in moist environments and are attracted to tall grasses and low bushes where they can rest during the day. They are most active at night, and bright lights can disrupt their mating rituals. Turn off unnecessary lights at night to create a more natural environment.

22. Predatory Stink Bugs

predatory stink bug
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Unlike their smelly cousins the brown marmorated stink bug, predatory stink bugs are beneficial insects to have in your garden. They act as natural pest control agents, and despite their name, they rarely discharge their odoriferous spray around humans. Predatory stink bugs feed on harmful insects, including caterpillars and beetle larvae. Grow a variety of crops and avoid the overuse of pesticides to maintain a healthy population of these beneficial bugs. It’s important to distinguish between predatory stink bugs and the nuisance brown marmorated stink bugs. Predatory stink bugs are generally larger and have a more prominent “shoulder” with spines, while brown marmorated stink bugs are smaller and lack these spines.